Knowledge and uses of African pangolins as a source of traditional medicine in Ghana

PLoS One. 2015 Jan 20;10(1):e0117199. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117199. eCollection 2015.

Abstract

Traditional medicine has been practised in Ghana for centuries with the majority of Ghanaians still patronising the services of traditional healers. Throughout Africa a large number of people use pangolins as a source of traditional medicine, however, there is a dearth of information on the use of animals in folk medicine in Ghana, in particular the use of pangolins. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalent use of pangolins and the level of knowledge of pangolin use among traditional healers in Ghana for the treatment of human ailments. Data was gathered from 48 traditional healers using semi-structured interviews on the traditional medicinal use of pangolin body parts in the Kumasi metropolis of Ghana. The cultural importance index, relative frequency of citation, informant agreement ratio and use agreement values were calculated to ascertain the most culturally important pangolin body part as well as the level of knowledge dissemination among traditional healers with regards pangolin body parts. Our study revealed that 13 body parts of pangolins are used to treat various medicinal ailments. Pangolin scales and bones were the most prevalent prescribed body parts and indicated the highest cultural significance among traditional healing practices primarily for the treatment of spiritual protection, rheumatism, financial rituals and convulsions. Despite being classified under Schedule 1 of Ghana's Wildlife Conservation Act of 1971 (LI 685), that prohibits anyone from hunting or being in possession of a pangolin, our results indicated that the use of pangolins for traditional medicinal purposes is widespread among traditional healers in Ghana. A study on the population status and ecology of the three species of African pangolins occurring in Ghana is urgently required in order to determine the impact this harvest for traditional medical purposes has on their respective populations as current levels appear to be unmonitored and unsustainable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ghana
  • Medicine, Traditional / methods*
  • Plants, Medicinal*

Grant support

The authors are grateful to the Tshwane University of Technology (www.tut.ac.za), National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (www.nzg.ac.za) and the Rufford Foundation (www.rufford.org) (RSG reference: 13600-1) for funding this project. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.